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Tournament: 120th Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 9 March 2002
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John Saunders reports: The 120th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the RAC Club, Pall Mall, London on 9 March 2002. The match sponsors were Tony Buzan and Henry Mutkin. Match arbiters were IM Bob Wade and David Sedgwick.

Bd Oxford University
Rating
Nat
4-4
Cambridge University
Rating
Nat
1w Richard Palliser (Worcester)
2443m
ENG
½-½
Eddie Dearing (Peterhouse)
2343
SCO
2b Andrew Bigg (Jesus)
2250
ENG
0-1
James Vigus (Clare)
2311f
ENG
3w Melanie Buckley (St Hilda's)
2147wm
ENG
½-½
Joe Conlon (Christ's)
2170
ENG
4b Joel Eklund (University)
2200e
SWE
1-0
David Hodge (Trinity)
2163
ENG
5w Harvey Meyer (Lincoln)
2200
SUI
½-½
Ben Morgan (Magdalene)
2200
ENG
6b Daniel Gunlycke (Merton)
2100e
USA
½-½
Andreas Domnick (St John's)
2185
GER
7w Kemal Ozeren (Balliol)
2100e
ENG
0-1
Oliver Cooley (Trinity)
2091
ENG
8b Kieran Smallbone (New)
2050
ENG
1-0
Rosalind Kieran (Newnham)
2079wf
ENG
  Av. Rating 2186.2
4-4
Av. Rating 2192.7

On rating the two teams were very similar this year, but many of the pundits predicted an Oxford victory.

But Cambridge it was who took the lead with James Vigus's win against Andrew Bigg, with drawn games following on boards 3, 5 and 6. Richard Palliser looked to be better on board one but couldn't find a way past Eddie Dearing's stout defence. Then Oxford staged a come-back with Kieran Smallbone's win on board eight, and it looked very likely that they would go on to win the match as Joel Eklund had a won position and Kemal Ozeren seemed to be drawing comfortably. After the time control Joel Eklund duly scored the win to take Oxford into a 4-3 lead, but Kemal Ozeren succumbed to the pressure and some determined and resourceful play from Oliver Cooley, who overcame him in a nail-biting 91-move bishop and pawns endgame to level the match. So Cambridge still lead the overall series by the margin of four wins.

Much of the day's entertainment stemmed from the fact that the Cambridge team left the trophy on the train on the way to the match. A frantic series of phone calls revealed that the prized gold Margaret Pugh Trophy had been found by rail officials, shipped back to Cambridge and left in the hands of the local constabulary. Someone bravely volunteered to make the trip to Cambridge to retrieve it so that it could be presented at the prize-giving in the evening. What had seemed like a routine 45-minute trip to the university city turned into a nightmare for him as the railway line was blocked by a tree across the line. Many hours later, just as the prize-giving was underway, he returned clutching the trophy to the universal acclaim of the assembled audience. As Tony Buzan quipped: "So Cambridge became the first team to lose, regain and then draw for the trophy, all on the same day!"

© 2002 John Saunders, all photos and text - not to be used without permission